Why is the AVMA advocating for this? The AVMA with guidance by its Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee wants to bridge a critical gap in the regulations and better protect, promote, and advance health and welfare of the farmed aquatic animals impacted.
As with terrestrial farmed animals, the health and welfare of farmed aquatic species also includes veterinarian involvement. Veterinary licensure within the U.S. is regulated at the state level, and veterinarians must be licensed by each state in which they practice (except for rare situations such as by invitation of the state animal health authority to assist with an existing case, investigation, or disaster). However, U.S. waters outside of state jurisdiction are regulated by the federal government, and while USDA-APHIS has oversight of farmed terrestrial and aquatic animal species moving in and out of these regions and oversight of official duties of federally accredited veterinarians, the agency does not license veterinarians. This is the critical gap that the AVMA is advocating to bridge with its new policy:
Veterinary Licensing in U.S. Waters Outside State Jurisdiction
The practice of veterinary medicine is required for the health and welfare of aquatic animals in U.S. waters outside of state jurisdiction. Throughout the U.S., involvement of veterinarians is required for diagnosing, prescribing, issuing VFDs and international health certificates, and other acts of veterinary practice. For these reasons, the AVMA holds that licensed and federally accredited veterinarians must be utilized in aquaculture systems within U.S. waters outside of state jurisdiction.
The AVMA recommends that the criteria for veterinarians to practice veterinary medicine in these waters consist of three components:
1. The veterinarian is licensed and in good standing to practice veterinary medicine in any state within the U.S.
2. The veterinarian holds a USDA-APHIS category II veterinary accreditation that includes completion of USDA-APHIS aquatic animal health modules.
3. The veterinarian has a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship with the facility in which he/she is practicing veterinary medicine.
Furthermore, AVMA recommends that USDA-APHIS-VS be the lead agency for aquatic animal health oversight for commercially cultured aquatic animals in waters outside state jurisdiction.
The AVMA recognizes that uniform, standardized licensing of veterinarians for the practice of veterinary medicine in these waters is urgently needed, especially with recent federal regulation enabling introduction of aquaculture production systems in some of these areas. Furthermore, utilization of veterinarians, who are licensed and in good standing to practice veterinary medicine in any state within the U.S. and who hold category II federal veterinary accreditation that includes completion of USDA-APHIS aquatic animal health modules, is essential for the prevention, control, and eradication of aquatic animal diseases in such commercial aquatic animal systems.